Gambling on Soccer Prevalent Among UK Players, BBC Finds

Posted on: February 23, 2017, 04:00h. 

Last updated on: February 23, 2017, 12:14h.

Gambling on matches is “rife” in soccer, according to figures obtained by the BBC. The claim comes just days after Sutton United reserve goalkeeper Wayne Shaw resigned after being spotted by the BBC’s own TV cameras eating a pie on the substitute bench.

Soccer players like Joey Barton betting on matches
Burnley midfielder Joey Barton who accepted a charge of misconduct earlier this month over charges he had placed 1,260 bets on matches over the past decade. (Image: BBC)

Bookmaker Sunbets had offered odds of 8-1 against him doing this, a stunt that prompted investigations by the Gambling Commission (UKGC) and the Football Association (FA).

According to the new figures, obtained by the BBC from the Gambling Commission’s Sports Betting Intelligence Unit (SBIU) under the Freedom of Information Act, 53 instances of potential gambling breaches occurred between 1 August 2014 and 23 December 2016.

FA Rule Change

But former FIFA and Interpol adviser Chris Eaton told the broadcaster on Thursday that these figures are likely just “the tip of the iceberg.”

“In the absence of a global regulatory model, only naive or careless players will be caught in a tiny national net that is swamped in the massive global web that is sport betting,” he said.

Until 2014, soccer players were permitted to bet on the sport but barred from betting on matches in which they themselves, or a team they represented, were involved.

Amid concerns for the integrity of the sport, these rules were amended by the FA to prohibit all players, managers, club employees and match officials from betting on any soccer-related matter worldwide. And yes, that includes pies.

Barton’s Betting

While the 53 instances remain uncorroborated, as opposed to confirmed violations, Eaton said that SBIU alerts only concern players who use their own names or betting accounts to place a wager. The number who use friends’ accounts or illegal unlicensed betting sites is unknowable and likely much higher.

There have been several high-profile cases of soccer players falling foul of the FA’s new rules, most recently that of current Burnley midfielder Joey Barton.

Last November, Barton was charged by the Scottish FA while playing for Scottish club Rangers over placing 44 bets between 1 July and 15 September 2016. He received a one-game suspension and was later fired by Rangers following an altercation with his manager.

His move to Burnley was almost derailed by a separate FA investigation claiming he had placed 1,260 bets on matches over the past decade.

He accepted an FA charge of misconduct earlier this month and is currently awaiting punishment.